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NDSU Extension Offers Calf Weaning Advise

Breana Kiser, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent

Producers have several methods for weaning calves.

12-5-19 Calf WeaningNow is a good time to wean calves, and producers should select the weaning method that best fits their operation, according to North Dakota State University Extension livestock specialists.

For the beef industry, weaning can be defined as “the process of causing a calf to stop feeding on its mother's milk, to rely completely on other source of feed and to live without the cow’s company (at least temporarily) for the purpose of beef cattle production.”

“Weaning is a management practice inherent to beef cattle production,” says Yuri Montanholi, NDSU Extension beef cattle specialist.

Here are some reasons for weaning:
     -  Results in better efficiency in nutrient use when calves consume nutrients directly from feed rather than
            in milk from cows
     -  Helps reduce the cow’s energy requirements, which is crucial to cows maintaining adequate body
             condition

     -  Enables the management of market cows and the sale or backgrounding of weaned calves

Producers have several methods for weaning calves. These vary in cattle-handling requirements, and facilities, equipment and experience necessary. As a result, weaning methods provide distinct experiences to calves, impacting their well-being, which will affect their performance and health.

Types of Weaning

Corral weaning, also known as traditional or total-separation weaning, is a popular method that many producers consider to be “practical.” Under this method, cows and calves are separated abruptly. Most of the time, calves are kept in unfamiliar places and commingled with unfamiliar herd mates from different summer pastures. This method leads to excessive bawling and triggers other stress responses.

“Our research demonstrated a 75% increase in cortisol, a key indicator of stress, and a weight loss of 18 pounds after three days postweaning in calves subjected to the traditional method,” says Karl Hoppe, Extension livestock systems specialist at NDSU’s Carrington Research Extension Center.

Fence line weaning, as implied, consists of separating cows and calves into adjacent areas. They can see and sniff each other, but suckling is not possible. Under this method, cows and calves gradually lose interest in each other.

Weaning experts recommend that calves be kept in an area (weaning pen or trap, or pasture) with which they already are familiar. After a few days of separation, the producer can evaluate if the cattle are sufficiently weaned and then move the calves away, as needed.

Good fencing for this option is essential. Some experts recommend fences with five strands of barbed wire plus electrical wire.

Nose flap weaning, also known as two-step weaning, is based on the placement of a plastic flap in the nose. The flap allows eating (grazing and feed at the bunk) and water drinking but not nursing.

Producers normally remove the flap within a week of its placement, when calves and cows are separated. In the market, you can find flat flaps and flaps with spikes.

“The flat flaps already do the work expected,” says Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist. “I’m aware of some producers who apply the nose flap and then the fenceline method. This may be a good idea to further ease the stress of weaning.”

In general, research indicates that total-separation weaning will result in the poorest performance, and this is further aggravated if other procedures (dehorning, castration, etc.) are used at weaning, while two-step and fenceline weaning will result in similar productive performance. The difference could be 50 pounds or more of weight gain per calf within 60 days of weaning with a combination of the two-step and fenceline weaning, compared with the total-separation method.

“Regardless of the weaning method chosen, considering the weather forecast when selecting the day of weaning is important,” Montanholi advises. “Cattle also should be habituated to management and handling. Producers should use calm and effective handling practices.

“Once calves are weaned, they must be monitored daily for signs and symptoms of illness, and feed and water intake to make sure they are consuming the proper ration for optimum growth,” he adds.

To learn more about weaning calves, check out a webinar at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension/livestock. It was one of the Fall Agriculture Challenges webinar series that NDSU Extension hosted.


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NDSU Offers Fall Cattle Checklist

Breana Kiser, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent

10-31-19 Fall CAttle ChecklistNow is the time to schedule pregnancy checks, and assess cows’ body condition score and disease risks.

Fall is the time when beef cattle producers make many management and labor decisions, including repairing cattle working facilities, moving cattle to fall grazing, assessing crop residue opportunities and wondering if winter feed supplies will be sufficient.

Producers have other issues they should consider this time of year as well, according to North Dakota State University Extension livestock specialists.

“Scheduling pregnancy checks for cows nursing calves provides a good opportunity to identify cows for market and to vaccinate calves preweaning,” says Karl Hoppe, Extension livestock systems specialist at NDSU’s Carrington Research Extension Center. “Pregnancy checking heifers provides the opportunity to market open females directly off pasture. If pregnancy rates are lower than expected, it is important to evaluate parameters such as the bull-to-cow ratio, vaccination program and length of the breeding season.

“It is also important to factor in the age of open cows,” Hoppe adds. “If most of the open cows are young, there could be a nutritional issue affecting pregnancy rates.”

Assessing body condition score (BCS) in cows nursing calves also is a good management practice this time of year.
“Although rainfall and forage production were abundant in many areas of the state, declines in forage quality as plants mature can result in condition losses,” says Janna Block, Extension livestock systems specialist at NDSU’s Hettinger Research Extension Center. “It is important to remember that for spring-calving herds, the cow is not only providing for the calf at her side, but also entering the second trimester of gestation with next year’s calf.

“Although nutrient requirements for the fetus at this time are low, critical developmental events such as muscle fiber and organ development are occurring,” Block notes. “Research indicates that severe nutrient deficiencies during this period could impact offspring birth and weaning weights, feedlot performance and even carcass quality.”

If cows are thin now, producers should consider weaning calves, particularly from first-calf heifers or old cows. A March-calving cow with a body condition score of less than 4 at weaning will have to gain approximately 1.5 pounds per day to achieve a recommended condition score of 5 at calving. Reducing the need for nutrients required for lactation is the most efficient way to put condition back on cows, the specialists say.

Bulls also need to be evaluated in the fall for foot, leg and penile injuries, and BCS, Hoppe says. Mature bulls should have minimal weight loss during the breeding season, while yearling bulls will lose some weight during the breeding season and would benefit from improved nutrition when removed from the breeding herd.

Another key component of fall herd management is an assessment of the risk of certain diseases, and the efficacy and safety of specific products such as vaccines.

“The preweaning vaccination protocol provides an ideal opportunity to follow up on springtime vaccinations and enhance the immune response to respiratory pathogens,” says Gerald Stokka, Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist.

Respiratory disease is one of the primary risks to weaned calves. The bovine respiratory disease complex (BRDC) is associated with the stress of weaning, diet change, transportation or movement to new surroundings, and often the commingling of different pasture groups on the same ranch. Enhancing the calves’ immunity to specific potential pathogens can decrease the risk of BRDC. Sorting and vaccinating calves while they still are nursing their dams reduces the stress of calf processing.

The infection risk is related to several viral and bacterial pathogens. Depending on a veterinarian’s assessment of the risk to the herd, calves may need booster doses at weaning or they simply may be separated from their dams without additional vaccinations.

Modified live virus vaccines (MLV), often called five-way viral vaccines, that are labeled for use on nursing calves can provide excellent protection when properly handled and administered according to label instructions, Stokka says. Mannheimia haemolytica infections often are implicated in pre- and post-weaning respiratory disease cases, and vaccines against this pathogen commonly will be included, very often in combination with the MLV virus vaccines.n specific herds, other bacterial vaccines may be necessary, depending on herd history and risk.

“It is important to remember that killed/inactivated vaccines will usually require a booster dose to achieve an adequate level of protection,” Stokka says. “Consult your veterinarian about specific products related to viral and bacterial vaccines.”
Other health risks to calves include:


    Clostridial diseases, commonly called “blackleg” - The risk of this infection is difficult to assess; however, the organism that causes these diseases lives in the soil and can cause severe illness and death in susceptible animals. A second vaccine dose administered at this time will enhance protection against this family of pathogens.


    Internal parasites if cattle are on grass - Calves with internal parasites will have reduced feed/forage intake, resulting in reduced weaning weights. Internal parasites also can have a negative impact on the calves’ ability to respond to vaccination. If dewormer products are used at preweaning, calves should be moved to clean pastures to avoid re-infection.


    External parasites such as horn and face flies - These populations have decreased dramatically and treatment for them no longer is necessary. Treatment for biting and sucking lice is not recommended at this time. The feeding activity of lice will increase with colder weather, so hold off on treatments until signs of lice appear.


Stokka also recommends commingling calves from different pastures prior to weaning if possible. This may seem unnecessary; however, calves at this stage are much like preschool children, he says. Allow calves to share their bugs and develop a social order while still nursing their dams. This can greatly reduce the risk of postweaning respiratory diseases.

“Preweaning vaccination events, while stressful, can minimize pathogen stress that is normally associated with commingling of different pastures, separation from the dam and changes in diet that occur with weaning,” Stokka adds. “Work to ensure that all animal-handling events are conducted in a calm, low-stress manner to the extent possible.”

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NDSU Extension Offers Tips for Fall Grazing Cover Crops

Breana Kiser, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent

10-24-19 Grazing TipsGrazing cover crops can present some challenges.

Cover crop acreage is expected to increase in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency’s revision to the preventive-planting insurance provisions, according to North Dakota State University Extension livestock experts.

The revision has allowed producers to hay or graze a cover crop on preventive-plant acres beginning Sept. 1. This increase in cover crop acreage provides an opportunity for ranchers.

“Cover crops are a great way for ranchers to add flexibility into their grazing system,” says Miranda Meehan, Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. “Planting cover crops will produce a high-quality forage and extend the grazing season while allowing rangeland and pastures adequate time to recover.”

However, grazing cover crops can present some challenges to ranchers. Here are four things for producers to keep in mind as they prepare to graze cover crops this fall.

Know the Quality of Your Forage

“Forage testing helps ensure the feed you are feeding your cattle meets their nutritional requirements,” says Kevin Sedivec, Extension rangeland management specialist. “This is especially important when grazing cover crops because the quality will vary, depending on the species, varieties and maturity.”

Forage quality parameters to be most concerned with include crude protein, digestibility, fiber level and minerals.

Brassicas such as turnips and radish often are incorporated into cover crop mixes as a high-quality forage. Research on species and variety of brassicas conducted at NDSU found crude proteins of 14% to 27% and total digestible nutrients of 70% to 80%. In addition, brassicas can contain as much as 80% water, depending on the timing of grazing.

This combination can disrupt rumen function if high-fiber plants such as millet, sorghum, sudangrass and corn are not included in the mix. Ranchers may need to provide low-quality supplemental fiber, such as low-quality hay or straw, to increase intake and maintain performance.

Be Aware of Potential Toxins

Many species of cover crops have the potential to be toxic to cattle. Producers must be aware of potentially toxic species, conditions that increase the risk of toxicity and grazing management practices that reduce the potential of cattle consuming toxic forage. The most common toxicities associated with cover crops include hydrocyanic acid (HCN), nitrate and sulfur.

Forage sorghum, sudangrass and hybrids contain HCN in the leaves and stems. The concentration of HCN depends on the species, variety, maturity, plant injury and environmental damage (hail and frost). The concentrations of HCN decrease as the plant matures. Damage or injury to the plant from hail, insects, frost or harvest breaks cells and releases the toxins.

These grazing management strategies reduce the potential for HCN toxicity:

  • Delay grazing cattle until forage is 18 to 24 inches tall.
  • Avoid grazing regrowth under 12 inches.
  • Do not graze following hail or a light frost. Grazing after a killing frost is safe because the HCN dissipates quickly after the plant dies.

Nitrates can accumulate in small-grain forages (wheat, oats, rye, triticale and barley), sorghum, sudangrass and corn. When plants encounter stressful growing conditions, photosynthesis is inhibited and the potential for accumulation of nitrates is increased.

“We typically associate nitrate accumulation with drought stress, but it also can accumulate during prolonged periods of cool, cloudy weather,” Meehan says.

These strategies can help reduce the risk of nitrate poisoning when grazing:

  • Do not move hungry cows.
  • Provide cattle with roughage to reduce the amount of nitrate ingested.
  • Do not overstock pastures when grazing high-nitrate forages. Overstocking increases the amount of high-nitrate plant parts (stems and stalks) that cows consume.

Know Your Carrying Capacity

The stocking rate is going to depend on the carry capacity of the cover crop and individual management goals. A number of factors influence carrying capacity, including soils, type of cover crop, stage of growth and rainfall. To determine carrying capacity accurately, producers first must determine forage production of the area to be grazed.

The most accurate method to calculate forage production is the clip-and-weigh method, Sedivec says. This method requires the actual harvesting of standing forage at a given time to predict available forage.

The available forage is measured by hand clipping and weighing a specified number of plots within a grazing/forage production area. See NDSU Extension publication “NDSU Range and Forage Production Sample Kits” (https://tinyurl.com/NDSU-RangeSampleKits) for detailed instructions on calculating forage production.

Once forage production has been determined, then make an adjustment for harvest efficiency. Harvest efficiency is the amount of the plant that livestock will impact during the time they are grazing the pasture. Harvest efficiency is expressed as a percent and should be multiplied by the total amount of forage on the pasture to provide the amount of forage available for grazing animals.

When grazing cover crops, harvest efficiency will depend on the desired amount of residue following grazing. The two most common scenarios are take all, no residue left behind, 75% harvest efficiency; and take half, leave half, 35% harvest efficiency.

Design Considerations to Optimize Grazing Efficiency

One common complaint from those grazing cover crops is forage waste. Forage waste can be reduced and harvest efficiency increased by dividing the field into cells based on stocking rate.

Limiting the area cattle can access reduces feed waste and improves nutrient distribution. The most effective way to do this is with temporary fencing. Fences can be set up prior to grazing or prior to moving cattle into the next cell.

When establishing grazing cells, be sure to consider access to water. This may limit the design of the grazing system because many fields do not have developed water sources. The most effective design is to start grazing in the cell nearest the water sources and work away from them, allowing cattle to come back across the grazed cells to access water.

“Integrating cover crops into your grazing system has the potential to enhance cattle and crop production when done properly,” Meehan says. “Keep these keys in mind as you begin grazing cover crops this fall.”

 

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Beware Ergot Contaiminated Livestock Feeds

Breana Kiser, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent

10-17-19 Beware ErgotErgot has been found in several parts of North Dakota.

Although ergot is not a new problem in North Dakota, more of it is being documented in several areas of the state, according to Gerald Stokka, North Dakota State University Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist.

Ergot is a fungal disease that can develop in grasses and cereal grains, and it can be toxic to livestock that consume it.

“Ergotism is generally a sporadic disease that can affect ruminants, horses, swine and humans,” Stokka says. “Clinical signs in cattle are gangrenous (death of soft tissue) or cutaneous (affecting the skin) ergotism, lameness, elevated body temperature, reduction in feed intake and possibly reduced fertility.”

Ergot sclerotia (hard, dark fungi bodies) mature at the same rate as plant seeds and can fall to the ground to overwinter and possibly germinate the following year. The purplish-black, hard ergot sclerotia contain toxic alkaloids (organic compounds of plant origin) responsible for ergotism in animals. Symptoms typically are the death of most or all of the cells in the tip of the ears, tail and coronary band above the hoof wall.

“Milk production can decrease in animals exposed to ergot alkaloids,” says Michelle Mostrom, a toxicologist at the NDSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

“This spring’s cool and damp weather delayed planting of cereal grains,” says Andrew Friskop, NDSU Extension plant pathologist. “In June, this weather contributed to the germination of ergot sclerotia, leading to spore release and infection in grass hosts.”

Ergotism is most prevalent in late summer, when the seed heads of grass mature.

Cereal grains such as rye, triticale, wheat, barley and oats and a variety of grasses (brome, timothy, quack grasses, blue grasses and others) can develop the ergot body in the grains’ seed ovary.

The amount of ergot alkaloids in sclerotia varies widely. Ruminants consuming rations with 0.3% to 1% or more sclerotia can develop gangrenous ergotism. Researchers estimate that ergot alkaloid concentrations between 0.2 and 0.8 milligram per kilogram or part per million in the total feed ration can produce ergotism in livestock.

“The key to the successful treatment of ergotism in animals is early recognition of the clinical signs and removal of the animals from ergot-contaminated grains, hay, processed feeds or pastures,” Stokka says.

“The risk of ergotism increases in pregnant and lactating cows,” he adds. “Watch mammary development in susceptible animals for earlier recognition of the disease. Also, visually monitor feed for the presence of ergot sclerotia.”

Because of the huge variation of different ergot alkaloid concentrations in individual sclerotia, the evaluation of sclerotia in grain by weight for toxicity is misleading. Mostrom recommends producers submit a representative sample of grains and grasses to a veterinary diagnostic lab for ergot alkaloid testing before feeding it to livestock.

The analyses will provide information on the risk of ergot alkaloids to different species of animals. The NDSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Fargo (https://www.vdl.ndsu.edu) analyzes grains and grasses for ergot alkaloids. Ergot testing is not performed in biological tissues.

Extension specialists recommend that producers also avoid feeding animals grain screenings, which can contain a higher proportion of ergot bodies. Screenings can contain many seeds or material.

Karl Hoppe, Extension livestock systems specialist at NDSU’s Carrington Research Extension Center, says identification of ergot in grain screenings is important. He recommends producers look for black kernels and break them in half. If the black kernel is white on the inside, it’s indicative of ergot. If the center is black, it might be rat feces instead of grain. Both should be avoided for livestock feed.

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Dickey County 4-Her Accepted Into The AQHA Young Development Program

Breana Kiser, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent

Kali Norton is the 12 year old daughter of Jason and Lana Norton. She is an active Dickey County 4-H member belonging to the Prairie Rose Club. Kali competes on the Dickey County Horse Hippology Team and shows at the Horse Achievement Days. This summer she applied for the American Quarter Horse Association Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program that she read about in the American Quarter Horse Association magazine.

The AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program (YHD) showcases the stock being bred and raised by American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Ranching Heritage members by matching donated weanlings with American Quarter Horse Youth Association (AQHYA) members. Youth in this program are engaged in the horse industry at a fundamental level that is both fun and educational.

Participating Ranching Heritage breeders donate young horses for Young Horse Development participants to raise and train. Young horsemen and women learn responsibility and goal-setting, important components of horse ownership - and life skills that can follow them for years to come. Encouraged by good fun, as well as key education in the horse industry, youth learn to raise and train their weanlings.

Through the Young Horse Development program, AQHYA members 12 years and older receive a hands-on horse training opportunity focusing on the fundamentals of horsemanship. The program is not only an excellent educational experience, it is also a lot of fun! Prizes and scholarships are at stake. Participants can showcase the skills and knowledge they have acquired for chances to win scholarships and awards.

Throughout the program, participants further their knowledge in horse health by prioritizing equine wellness.

Participants are encouraged to help ensure their horse’s health by working closely with a veterinarian and completing the Zoetis Good Start Equine Wellness Certificate. The certificate outlines key aspects of horse health care to help build a solid foundation of equine wellness for both horses and youth members. The Good Start certificate records veterinary wellness exam details, including core and risk-based vaccinations, to help the weanlings excel in both health and performance.

The AQHYA member must complete an application which includes two letters of reference, the last two years grade reports, 10-10-19 Open Box Rafter Ranch Groupa persuasive essay and a google map of their property indicating shelter, pastures etc. About two weeks after submitting her 12 page application, the Norton family received a call that Kali was one of the lucky applicants to be selected. She was matched with Jim & Joni Hunt and family from Open Box Rafter Ranch. She will continue for the next year in the program completing projects and the top participants are eligible for scholarships and prizes. We are so proud of her hard work!


2019 Open Box Rafter Ranch weanling recipients.

The family traveled to Fairgrounds at Rapid City, SD in September where she was awarded this sorrel filly from Open Box Rafter Ranch. Congratulation to Kali Norton for being able to have such a great opportunity to further her experience in the horse industry.

10-10-19 Kali Norton & Flaire






 

10-10-19 Kali Norton & Stan Weaver

Kali Norton with her sorrel filly, Flaire.
               10-10-19 Kali Norton Jim & Joni Hunt                                           

 

 

 

Kali Norton with Jim & Joni Hunt                                                            

 

                                                                                                           Kali Norton with Stan Weaver, AQHA President


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What's Bugging You? Slug Management in Your Garden

Breana Kiser, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent

8-29-19 Garden Slug 1Have you been finding leaves chewed on similar to this? Your culprit could be a slug.

 

 

 



Slugs are slimy, soft-bodied animals, described as shell-less snails. They are present from spring to fall, in cool, moist areas8-29-19 Garden Slug 2 with shade.  Population increase during rainy season and on well-irrigated gardens. Slugs feed on leaves of many plants (especially seedlings), ripening fruits and vegetables, and decaying plant matter. They feed at night and hide during the day because they can’t handle the heat of the sun. To try and find them, near the stem of the plant that has evidence of being eaten and lightly dig up some of the soil. They should be near the surface so you can now manage for these little pests.
A few ways you can protect your gardens from slugs if they are already an issue is to bait them so you can remove them from your garden. Baits and pesticides can be used in combination with a few other control methods. Baits are not effective in controlling slugs, if used alone.

Baits should be applied before fruits (especially berries) become ripe, because the slugs might prefer ripe fruit over slug bait.  Irrigate the patch just before applying a bait. This will create an ideal condition for slugs to become active. Apply the bait in the late afternoon or evening close to the time when the slugs will begin activity. Sprinkle some bait in areas where slugs might be hiding (close to walls or fences). Another bait technique is to use an old yogurt container, bury it into your garden until the opening is level with the soil surface, then fill with beer, and the slugs will crawl into the beer, final step is to remove the container with beer and slugs.

To keep the slugs out of your garden you can create a barrier to keep them out. Materials that are effective barriers is Copper strips or tape sold specifically for slug control can be purchased from garden suppliers. Copper barriers are most practical for small gardens and containers. One can also use Diatomaceous earth (tiny fossilized skeletons of ancient aquatic diatoms) is coarse and can scratch up slugs. It is most effective when used in dry conditions and has little effect when it absorbs moisture. It is not as effective as a copper barrier.

Try to keep your garden clean and dry so you don’t attract slugs.  Rake your garden in early spring to remove leaves, plant debris and slug eggs. Be sure to remove mulch and leaf litter near plants, these can be potential hiding places for slugs. It is important to do this in early spring to remove any slug eggs that may be present. Also remove boards and other material to reduce favorable areas for slugs. Avoid using large wood chips as they provide hiding places for slugs. If you maintain wood mulch for weed prevention, keep only three inches near the plant themselves.

Water your garden only when necessary. Slugs do not like warm, dry conditions. Water your plants in the morning, so that plants are dry by evening (when slugs become active). Place drip irrigation tape close to the plants and avoid creating wet mulch situations.

Take the following steps to keep the soil surface dry:
          o    Thin or divide plants if they are too crowded.
          o    Prune lower leaves or stake large plants to allow better air circulation.
          o    If you plant in rows, keep the width of the rows narrow (12 to 18 inch).

Choose plants that are not attractive to slugs   Plants that perform well in shade but are less desired by slugs include astilbe, dicentra, lobelia, ranunculus, vinca and viola. Plants for areas with partial shade: phlox, campunula, hemerocallis and mentha. Mentha, ranunculus and viola spread vigorously and may not be suitable for some sites.

If you need help identifying what is causing issues in your garden, please call the office (701)349-3249 ext. 2. We can help solve your problem and keep your garden looking beautiful and producing fruits and vegetables for your enjoyment.

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Grazing Harvsting Rule Change to Benefit Producers

Breana Kiser, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent

8-22-19 Grazing Rule ChangeThe USDA is allowing producers to graze, hay or cut cover crops on prevented-planting acres beginning Sept. 1.
Changes in federal grazing and harvesting rules on prevented-planting acres could help North Dakota livestock producers replenish forage supplies or at least offset shortages in perennial forage production, according to North Dakota State University Extension livestock specialists.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will allow producers to graze, hay or cut cover crops on prevented-planting acres beginning Sept. 1.

“Many livestock producers in the region are short on forage following a long, cold winter and late spring that depleted forage supplies,” says Kevin Sedivec, Extension rangeland management specialist. “Supplies in some areas have been further exacerbated due to low forage production resulting from cool temperatures and drought.”

The change in the allowable harvesting or grazing date to Sept. 1 on prevented-planting acres gives livestock producers an opportunity to offset the shortage of forage supplies.

“Flexibility in choosing a cover crop mixture becomes greater and strategies for what to plant can be tailored to fit your intended need,” says Miranda Meehan, Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. “With an earlier release date, landowners can plant different mixtures that can be used for grazing, haying or silage/haylage while providing soil health benefits.”

If Grazing is the Goal:

Producers have many opportunities to plant a cover crop mixture to be used for grazing.

“Your selection of species to use should be based on when you want to graze and if you want to hay first, then graze,” Meehan explains. “The mixtures can be simple to very complex, depending on budget, soil health goals and species of livestock.”

If plans are to graze in September, seed a mixture containing cool-season cereals (oats, barley, triticale), warm-season grasses (soughum-sudan, sudangrass, foxtail millet), brassicas (turnip, radish, rape, kale, cabbage), broadleaf plants (sunflower, buckwheat) and legumes (forage peas, faba beans, lentils, clovers, vetch).
“Your options are plentiful, but select based on production needs, minimal inputs, seed costs and availability, and overall budget,” Meehan advises.

If plans are to graze after Oct. 15, the seed mixture options could include cool-season cereals (oats, barley, triticale), foxtail millet, brassicas (turnip, radish, kale), broadleaf plants (sunflower, buckwheat) and legume (forage peas, clovers, vetch).
“It is important to have a good grazing management plan in place to avoid potential animal health issues associated with cover crops,” says Janna Block, Extension livestock systems specialist at NDSU’s Hettinger Research Extension Center. “Many species used in cover crops are known to accumulate nitrates and also may have toxic levels of sulfur.
“Sorghum and sudangrass also can accumulate prussic acid, particularly during drought,” she adds. “Cover crops may be low in magnesium, which can result in development of grass tetany. Bloat can occur with legumes or if protein levels are too high in the mixture.”

If using brassicas in a mix for grazing, the general recommendation is to limit them to less than 50% of the seed mixture to avoid digestive disorders in cattle. Provide livestock with dry hay or other forage prior to turnout, and gradually introduce them to cover crops during a period of several days if possible.

If Haying is the Goal

The selection of plant species to be hayed after Sept. 1 becomes limited due to lack of drying conditions and the plants’ ability to dry sufficiently to make high-quality hay. Forage plants need to be nonhigh water-holding plants and have small stems for greater potential to cure in September or later.

Recommended species for September haying include cool-season cereals (oats, barley, triticale), warm-season grasses (foxtail millet, sudangrass) and legumes (forage peas, clovers and vetch). The cereal grains and warm-season grasses can be seeded in monocultures or mixtures with or without the legume. This mixture will be a better choice if plans are to graze after harvesting.

If Silage/Haylage is the Goal:

More options can be added to this mixture because drying to an acceptable level for curing isn’t as critical. Harvesting before a freeze is important to achieve silage because desired moisture conditions need to be 65% to 70% for a bunker and 60% to 68% for silo bags.

A hard freeze will reduce the moisture content dramatically within 24 to 48 hours. Haylage can be put up at a lower moisture level (40% to 60%), so harvesting in late September to early October is possible.

Recommended species for silage and haylage include warm-season grasses (sorghum, sorghum sudangrass hybrid, pearl millet), cool-season cereals (oats, barley, triticale), brassicas (kale, cabbage, turnips) and legumes (forage peas). The warm-season grasses can be seeded in monocultures or mixtures with the cool-season grasses, brassicas and/or legumes.
A mixture will be a better choice if plans are to graze after harvesting, but it usually results in less tonnage of forage. If haylage will be your final feed produced, eliminate the brassicas in the mixture because they will be difficult to dry to less than 60% before mid-October and the other plants in the mixture will be too dry following a hard frost.

Crop producers intending on planting cover crops on prevented-planting acres to suppress weeds and enhance soil health have an opportunity to market this forage to livestock producers. The NDSU Feedlist (https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/feedlist) can connect crop producers with livestock producers in search of additional forage.

Meehan recommends producers get a laboratory analysis for any cover crop mixture prior to feeding it to livestock.
“Due to this one-time rule change granted by the USDA, creating a high-quality feed will be possible on prevented-planting acres in 2019,” Sedivec says. “Take advantage of this opportunity. Plant a cover crop that can enhance your soil health while creating feed for late-season grazing or hay and silage/haylage production.”

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Farmers and Ranchers Can Be Resilient and Manage Stress

Breana Kiser, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent

7-25-19 Stress ResiliencePeople working in agriculture manage a variety of stresses on a regular basis.

"In doing so, they demonstrate their resilience and ability to handle the ups and downs of agriculture," North Dakota State University Extension family science specialist Sean Brotherson says. "However, higher levels of stress in recent times are requiring those working in agriculture to focus on key approaches to managing stress.

"To help with these stresses, one can learn to control events, attitudes and responses," he adds.

Everyone handles everyday stress differently. Researchers have found three key factors that distinguish between successful and unsuccessful stress managers.

The first factor is that people vary in their ability to tolerate stress.

"Emergencies on the farm, delays and other problems that a confident farmer/rancher takes in stride may be a stumbling block for one who feels inadequate," Brotherson says. "While part of an individual's stress tolerance is inborn, a crucial part depends on the quality of coping skills practiced.

"Learning to cope successfully with a stressor once increases your ability to handle it the next time," he explains. "Also, learning from others who have been there (a fellow farmer, a sibling, a pastor, a counselor, etc.) can help you in your farm or ranch operation."

The second factor is feeling in control. Successful stress managers know how to accept things that are out of their control and how to focus on and manage things they can control.

"You may not be able to control weather, but you can definitely focus on getting regular exercise, a healthful diet, a good sleep schedule and sharing with others," Brotherson says. "All of these things help you feel more in control and help with your stresses."

The third factor is the mindset and responses that people adopt in handling stressful events. That determines a big part of their stress levels. For example, if you perceive yourself as alone in handling a stressful situation, then you will experience greater stress.

"Farm/ranch family members can manage their stress well, even during planting and harvesting," Brotherson says. "The key is to be flexible, maintain a balanced lifestyle and share their concerns with others.

"Make time daily to take care of yourself, for your work is vital to all," he adds.

For more information on this topic see, https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/farmranchstress.

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North Dakota Farmers Should Prepare for Propane Expense

Breana Kiser, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent

7-18-19 Propane ExpenseDelaying spring planting could mean delayed harvesting, causing farmers to utilize costly propane to dry down their crops.

It is likely that propane or other crop-drying fuel markets will be strained across much of the U.S., says Bryon Parman, North Dakota State University Extension agricultural finance specialist.


In March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projected nearly 93 million acres of corn would be planted in the U.S., with a state record 4.05 million acres of corn planted in North Dakota. However, persistent cold, rain and flooding across the Midwest has led to many acres being planted late, or not planted at all. In some regions, this issue will impact soybean planting as well.

The June 10 USDA crop progress report showed only 83% of corn planted nationally, compared to the 99% typical by this date, and 93% in North Dakota compared to 98% on average. Some states are much further behind with Illinois at 73% planted, compared to 100% on average, and South Dakota 64% planted compared to 99% on average.

“This year it is estimated that more than half of the U.S. corn crop will have gone in the ground after May 25,” says Parman.

Along with the typical yield drag that comes with planting after the optimal window, late-planted crops also run the risk of not drying down adequately by the time the crop is harvested. This is exacerbated when the late summer and early fall are particularly cold and wet.

In some regions of the corn belt, crops can be left in the field longer as there are often warmer periods in the months of November and December allowing for corn and soybeans to continue drying, pushing the date that those crops are harvested out.

However, northern states such as North Dakota may not see such opportunities immediately after planting, where a dry down is possible in the field in November and December further south.

“Therefore, North Dakota farmers may face the decision to leave the crop in the field for possibly several more months into March or April, or utilize rapid heat drying systems,” says Parman. “While leaving the crop in the field can lead to losses from wind, snow and ice, attempting to harvest high-moisture crops leads to storage issues and severe discounts for selling wet crops, if they can be sold at all.”

NDSU Extension experts estimate that drying corn could cost as much as 3 to 4 cents per bushel, per point of moisture reduced, at propane prices between $1.50 and $2.00 per gallon. In that case, drying corn down from 26% to 16% could cost as much as 30 to 40 cents per bushel, so it is properly conditioned for long-term storage.

“Seasonal price patterns for wholesale and retail propane in North Dakota show that price is typically highest beginning in October through January, and falls considerably to a low from April to June,” says David Ripplinger, NDSU Extension bioenergy economics specialist. “In fact, propane prices are often one-third the cost in late spring and early summer versus fall and winter during harvest season. Current market prices are 90 cents to $1.10 for summer or fall delivery with flexible spot delivery occasionally falling to half that.”


Ripplinger concludes, “One strategy farmers can employ is pre-pricing propane or buying and taking delivery if they have ample on-farm storage. This could save a farmer drying 100,000 bushels of corn $30,000 to $40,000 in years where harvested corn moisture levels are 10% above those needed for storage. This approach also eliminates the risk of delays or shortages if high demand overwhelms distribution.”

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Cool Weather May Decrease Forage Production

Breana Kiser, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent

7-11-19 Cool Weather & ForageNDSU livestock and forage experts offer advice if producers see a decrease in forage production and quality.

Cooler than average temperatures this spring and continued drought in the northern region of North Dakota have suppressed forage growth across the state, and may contribute to a delay and decline in forage production and quality.

According to grazing readiness surveys conducted by North Dakota State University Extension agents across the state, grazing readiness for cool-season grasses was on track, with the grasses developmentally ready to be grazed by June 1. However, in many areas, growth is lagging behind. In several areas, producers are reporting Kentucky bluegrass heading out at 3 to 4 inches. This is approximately 25% shorter than in a normal year.

Once a grass sets seed, the potential for additional growth, as well as forage quality, is reduced. Grazing in the vegetative stage promotes cell elongation, delaying seed set and preserving forage quality.

“Grasses in our pastures in North Dakota tend to peak in quality early in the growing season,” notes Miranda Meehan, Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. “Forage quality quickly declines once seed set occurs in mid-June to early July for cool-season pastures and in mid-July to early August for warm-season pastures.”

A similar delay was seen in alfalfa. Much of the crop in the western half and northern region of the state was not even 6 inches tall by mid-May, which delayed first cutting to the first week of June in eastern North Dakota. However, the first cutting is approximately a week out in western North Dakota.

Following the harsh winter, many livestock producers have experienced inadequate forage supplies. Those who did have forage remaining have been able to delay pasture turnout. Regardless, this decrease in production will affect them.

“One option available to producers is to use prevented-plant acres to produce annual forages for supplemental grazing and/or hay,” says Marisol Berti, a forage and biomass crop production professor in NDSU’s Plant Sciences Department. “If you intend to do this, we recommend not applying for preventive-plant insurance, as you won’t be able to use the forage until Nov. 1. If you do enroll in the preventive-planting program, plant a cover crop that can be grazed after Nov. 1.”

Forage species selected will vary based primary on the planned use: hay, summer grazing, fall grazing or next-spring grazing. Producers still have some time to establish a spring cereal, such as forage oats and barley,that can be utilized this summer. Warm-season forages such as millets, sudangrass and sorghum-sudan hybrids are high yielding and can be harvested for hay, haylage or silage, or grazed.

“Keep in mind that nitrate toxicity is a potential concern for corn, small grains, sorghum-sudan and numerous weed species,” says Kevin Sedivec, Extension rangeland management specialist. “Although people typically associate drought conditions with an increased risk for nitrate toxicity, nitrates can accumulate under other abnormal growing conditions, including above- or below-average temperatures, cloudy conditions or frost.”

Producers have many forage options to plant that can be grazed late this summer through early winter. Foxtail millet, sudangrass and sorghum-sudangrass also can be used as pasture. However, once these plants freeze, livestock tend to be more selective and increase waste through trampling.

Prussic acid poisoning is a potential risk in sorghums and related species with young, rapidly growing leaf tissue or after a frost. The best option is to wait to graze these species until new growth is at least 18 to 20 inches high, and at least a week or two after a frost until forage is dried down thoroughly.

Cool-season cover crop mixtures make excellent pasture well into the early winter period, according to Berti. Cool-season plants are less water efficient and will be more prone to fail if the drought persists. Make sure ample moisture is available in the top soil for plants to establish and grow.

Options for late-season cover crop mixtures include oats or barley, turnips, radish or hybrid leaf brassicas such as Pasja or Winfred. A combination of the species is best. Add a warm-season grass such as millet or sorghum-sudangrass to provide fiber in the diet.

The most common grazing issues that can occur with brassicas include bloat and nitrate toxicity. Forages should be tested for nitrate content prior to turnout, and livestock should be introduced to brassicas gradually during a period of five to seven days. Because brassicas are high in crude protein and digestible energy, they should be limited to less than 50% of the total diet to avoid digestive disorders.

Winter annuals can be utilized for grazing next spring. Winter annuals, winter wheat, winter rye and winter triticale should be planted by mid-September. Winter annuals can be utilized for early season grazing or haylage later in the season.

“If producers are unable to make up for forage shortages, culling animals may be required,” says Janna Block, Extension livestock systems specialist at NDSU’s Hettinger Research Extension Center. “Some culling targets include cows that are old, have poor disposition or physical structure, and those that had a difficult time giving birth this spring and a low chance of rebreeding.

The importance of records is magnified in times when tough culling decisions need to be made,” she adds. “Good calving and production records can help producers pinpoint cows that could be culled.”

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